Eight laundering plants with the capacity to produce over 53 million litres of diesel a year have been dismantled by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over the last three weeks. An illegal filling station selling laundered fuel has also been taken apart.
Working with the Police Service of Northern (PSNI), HMRC uncovered the fuel laundering plants in counties Armagh, Londonderry and Tyrone. Together they could have evaded an estimated £34 million in taxes and duty every year. One man was arrested and has been released on bail pending further enquiries.
In unconnected activity the illegal filling station or “huckster” site was dismantled yesterday (Thursday 6 June) by HMRC as part of ongoing operations to tackle commercial fuel tax evasion across Northern Ireland.
HMRC, assisted by PSNI officers, removed the huckster site from waste ground in West Belfast and seized almost 3,000 litres of suspected illicit fuel. Fuel storage tanks, a pump, a portable office and a storage container were also removed.
John Whiting, Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:
“Our activity over the last few weeks has stopped a large amount of laundered fuel entering the legitimate market, preventing further revenue loss and helping our legitimate traders fight unfair competition. It is wrong that honest businesses should be undercut by criminals and those involved in making or selling laundered fuel; this is organised criminality.
“Buying illicit fuel not only funds crime, it supports and encourages these dangerous activities within our communities. If anyone has information about fuel fraud in their area we would encourage them to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Justice Minister David Ford said:
“I offer my congratulations, as Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force, to both HMRC and PSNI for their successes in recent weeks tackling the scourge of fuel laundering. There have been strong levels of collaboration across government and law enforcement to combat the activities of organised crime gangs and through the OCTF I have no doubt we will continue to see further successes.
"People across our community need to realise that by buying illegal fuel, while they may be saving a few pounds, could potentially be running themselves into larger bills down the line by damaging their engines. Also, the reckless dumping of the laundering waste products can cause environmental damage. Dumped waste can cause pollution, as well as being harmful to people. Profit from fuel laundering could be used to finance other types of criminality such as drug dealing and human trafficking
"I would urge anyone with any knowledge of fuel laundering operations in their area, to report the matter to the appropriate authorities.”
Investigations are continuing.
Notes to Editors:
1. HMRC is a member of the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF). The OCTF was established in 2000 to provide strategic direction for a multi-agency approach to tackling organised crime. Chaired by Justice Minister David Ford, the Task Force brings together representatives from Government, law enforcement and a wide range of other agencies. It is a forum where partner agencies can discuss problems, share information and agree priorities. More information is at www.octf.gov.uk
2. Diesel laundering waste is often dumped in the countryside or next to roads with no care for the pollution it can cause to land or waterways. Typically the waste is dumped in agricultural areas or forests, chosen for their remoteness.
3. Laundered fuel is red (or green) diesel, which has been filtered through chemicals or acids to remove the Government marker. The chemicals and acids remain in the fuel and damage fuel pumps in diesel cars.
4. Photographs of one of the laundering plant and the huckster site are available at HMRC’s Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrc.gov.uk
5. Follow HMRC on Twitter at @hmrcgovuk
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.
HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.